There is an important ballot initiative on Nov. 6 that will raise the sales tax by one half percent. Approval of Measure L would make Lodi law enforcement competitive with nearby municipalities. It would provide needed funds to increase police staffing for assurance of adequate city protection.
For over 20 years, I lived in a relatively quiet Lodi neighborhood. Crime amounted to no more than occasional teenage pranks, noisy parties or petty theft from unlocked vehicles. But times seem to be changing.
As an example, last July, several patrol cars stopped in front of my house while pulling over a speeding vehicle. The driver had traveled more than 100 mph through town.
Then in August, just three doors down from my home, a prominent Lodi podiatrist was gunned down in his entryway.
A few days later, thieves pried open a community mailbox and stole mail from several residents. The entire box had to be replaced with a more secure container.
Now last Wednesday, a bizarre and brazen act took place right across the street. I noticed my neighbor’s new Ford pickup had the headlights on at 1 a.m. A young man in a white T-shirt was hanging around the vehicle. Within minutes, he was inside and driving away. An accomplice trailed behind in an old compact sedan.
Of course, I immediately reported the incident to the police dispatcher. But by the time she gathered enough information to confirm my story, the bad guys were long gone.
An officer arrived on the scene rather quickly. A dispatch was ordered to be on the lookout for the F-150. But once hitting Turner Road, the crooks could escape in three different directions. There were simply not enough patrol cars to cover all possibilities.
Then things really got crazy. Around 5:30 a.m., the stolen truck was mysteriously returned to its original spot. It was covered with dirt and dust from an apparent vineyard romp. Both garage doors at the home were wide open and the inside lights were on.
The bad guys had returned and used a garage door opener found in the truck. Again, they disappeared before discovery. This time, they stole bicycles, an expensive battery charger and tools.
As for the pickup, other than dirt and dust from the night venture, there did not seem to be much damage other than light scratches on the right side. All items in the console were taken. For some reason, two floor mats were gone and two others were found in the bed of the truck.
The police returned around 5:45 a.m. and took another report. The wife realized a key to the house was missing as well. “They’ll probably be back,” the officer warned.
These same neighbors had reported prowling a few days earlier, as their alarm and motion lights had been triggered.
Whether there is a connection between the two incidents is unknown. Needless to say, the lives and security of these residents have been shattered.
Now take a look at the bigger picture. Sacramento legislators and the governor have not helped the situation. They have reduced state prison populations. Bail requirements have been reduced as well. In addition, voters have approved changing a number of property crimes from felonies to misdemeanors — thus making assignment of prison time for repeat offenders more difficult.
Lodi is not Mayberry anymore. Prevention and deterrents are the best approach to reducing crime. Increased police patrols are certainly part of this equation. Measure L will help us keep pace with Sacramento’s mandatory increases in city costs, such as the $15 minimum wage raise that will take place just three years from now. State legislative decrees rob funds from local public safety for which our local city council has no control.
Until politics change in the capitol, our choices are simple: We either approve Measure L or soon reduce fire and police below the minimal standards we have now. No one likes new taxes — not even small ones. But hurting ourselves does nothing to change reckless policies created in Sacramento.
For many years, Lodi has been the jewel of the San Joaquin Valley. The city has so much to offer. Property values are on the rise, as people discover our unique advantages. Measure L can help us keep that edge.
Steve Hansen is a Lodi writer.